The City of Penticton is trying to educate the community on how to report problems.
Signs are popping up around downtown Penticton and in city parks, telling residents that if they see something, they should say something, and giving a list of the appropriate numbers to call.
“The goal is really making sure people are phoning the right departments when they see issues,” said bylaw supervisor Tina Siebert.
Along with 911, RCMP non-emergency line, and the regular number for the city’s bylaw department — there is also a new after-hours phone number for bylaw.
“We did extend our hours of operation, so we are working until 10:30 p.m.,” said Siebert. “We are getting a lot of calls from the public after regular business hours and it has been really good so far.”
The call volume is an encouraging sign, Siebert continued, and the extended hours are beneficial to the community to deal with issues happening in the evening. Previously, bylaw worked regular business hours, ending at about 4:30 p.m., other than for a few special events.
The bright green ‘see something, say something’ signs have been posted in high traffic areas, as well as some problem spots.
“We also put up a couple at the Skaha end of the city as well. We just wanted to make sure they are highly visible, so people see the signs and see the phone numbers,” said Siebert.
“That’s important. We don’t want people to not say something, or say something on social media and not call it in,” she said. “If they see something, we want them to say something. That’s the bottom line with all of this.”
The result has been an increased number of calls to the bylaw department.
“Definitely more calls related to issues related to safety. When people start to gather and loiter, it does make people feel uncomfortable,” said Siebert.
People have also reported homeless camping areas where junk has been left behind.
“Then we can make arrangements to get the area cleaned up, so it doesn’t generate more of the same kind of issues,” she said.
More serious calls, like those involving drug deals or weapons, are passed on to the RCMP.
“We are working quite closely and corresponding with them to ensure that the right department is going to the calls,” Siebert said. “It is really important when the public is relaying the information that they are giving us clear information about what they are seeing,” she said. “That is really important to us to make sure that we are safe when we respond or ensure the RCMP are responding as well. “
Siebert said the first batch of signs went up in what the city considered the highest priority areas. A second batch will spread the message farther.
“They’ll definitely be seen a lot more throughout the community.”
She’s not sure the city will continue funding the extra hours for bylaw officers.
“I think if we can support the need, absolutely. We are really monitoring our call volume and all our calls for service. I would like to have all that data to support it as a year-round operation,” said Siebert. “Our plan is to reevaluate in September when the busy summer months slow a little bit.
“We are definitely feeling the call volume within our department, keeping us very busy and constantly responding.”
Senior reporter, Penticton Western News
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